"And I thought Life Force was tough!"

Ok, so here it is, the first in the Gradius series by Conami. A port of an Arcade game to the NES, and one hell of a good one at that! Some people might be turned away from this game by its incredible challenge, but those people are just too lazy to practice. I'll say one thing for sure though. And I thought Life Force was tough! This game makes Life Force look like Mario Bros! I can't even beat the first level using a Game Genie most times, that's how tough this game is! However, the challenge is in avoiding enemy attacks, since one hit means instant death.
Control 10-10. In a game like this you really want to have good control. Conami didn't disappoint me here. The controls work very well. As I said, the challenge is all in avoiding the uncountable hoards of aliens that are always after you.
Audio 10-10. You'll recognize a few of these SFX from Life Force, which for those that don't know is a later installment in the Gradius saga. Conami also includes the trademark chime here that you hear in games like Castlevania when you pause the game..I guess that's a trademark of Conami games, since every Conami game I've ever played features that effect. The music is also excellent, and players of Life Force will recognize the boss theme here, as it's used in Life Force during the extremely annoying miniboss fight in stage 5. The other tunes are all new. I noticed that this game doesn't seem to have an ending theme..Of course since it doesn't really have much of an ending..well, play the game and you'll know what I mean. Of the SFX, quite a few return in later Gradius games on the NES (well actually I think there were only two others).
Gameplay 9-10. The later installments (at least Life Force anyway), corrected my only flaw here.In this game if you die you start at the beginning of the level. Life Force corrected that. In Life Force, when you died you picked up exactly where you were. Therefore if you were in a boss fight you didn't start the fight over. If you got a boss down to one unit of life left and then died you could just fire on the boss one more time to finish it. Gradius features some of the toughest bosses I've ever faced, and it's not just the bosses themselves, either. After each boss there's a boss ship except in the last level. These ships must be destroyed if you want to proceed, and some of them are a royal pain in the ass! If you destroy one in under five seconds (I've never done it), you'll skip a level. For instance, if you destroy the ship at the end of level 1 in under five seconds you'll skip to level 3.
Story 5-10. Save the planet from the aliens! At the time this was a creative story, but now there are so many games out there with that basic plot that it's really starting to get old...No, it's already gotten old.
Overall 10-10. If you give this game a try, do not, and I repeat, do not expect to beat it in one go unless you're reeaally good, 'cuz unless you're the ultimate video gamer you will die a few times..to say the least.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/27/02, Updated 03/01/03


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